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Meathead the Barbecue & Grilling Lover Cartoon

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Digital Thermometers:
Stop Guessing!

thermopop bbq thermometer

Gold BBQ AwardA good digital thermometer keeps me from serving dry overcooked food or dangerously undercooked food. You can get a professional grade, fast and precise splashproof thermometer like the Thermopop (above) for about $24. The Thermapen (below), the Ferrari of instant reads, is about $96. It's is the one you see all the TV chefs and all the top competition pitmasters using. Click here to read more about types of thermometer and our ratings and reviews.

bbq thermapen

GrillGrates Take You To
The Infrared Zone


Gold BBQ AwardGrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, produce great grill marks, keep small foods from committing suicide, kill hotspots, are easier to clean, flip over to make a fine griddle, smolder wood right below the meat, and can be easily removed and moved from one grill to another. Every gas grill and pellet smoker needs them.

Click here to read more about what makes these grates so special and how they compare to other cooking surfaces.

The Smokenator:
A Necessity For All Weber Kettles

smokenator bbq system

Gold BBQ Award If you have a Weber Kettle, you need the amazing Smokenator and Hovergrill. The Smokenator turns your grill into a first class smoker, and the Hovergrill can add capacity or be used to create steakhouse steaks.

Click here to read more.

The Pit Barrel Cooker

pit barrel c ooker bbqAbsolutely positively without a doubt the best bargain on a smoker in the world.

This baby will cook circles around the cheap offset sideways barrel smokers in the hardware stores because temperature control is so much easier (and that's because smoke and heat go up, not sideways).

Gold BBQ AwardBest of all, it is only $269 delivered to your door!

Click here to read our detailed review and the raves from people who own them.

scissor tongs

Best. Tongs. Ever.

Gold BBQ AwardMade of rugged 1/8" thick aluminum, 20" long, with four serious rivets, mine show zero signs of weakness after years of abuse. I use them on meats, hot charcoal, burning logs, and with the mechanical advantage that the scissor design creates, I can easily pick up a whole packer brisket. Click here to read more.

steak knives for bbq

The Best Steakhouse Knives

Gold BBQ AwardThe same knives used at Peter Luger, Smith & Wollensky, and Morton's. Machine washable, high-carbon stainless steel, hardwood handle. And now they have the imprimatur. Click for more info.

South Carolina: Where It All Began?

This article was hastily writtten after a trip to more than 20 BBQ joints in SC. I will expand upon it eventually.

By Meathead Goldwyn

I just got back from a "fact finding mission" to South Carolina where I spent a week of hitting barbecue joints at the rate of three or more a day. Then I was an "honorary" judge at the SCBA "Q Cup" in Columbia. A third year event run by Lake High and his friends, it sure is different from any other BBQ competition I've ever seen. Photos are here.

They judge whole hog, butts, and "anything butt". Almost every one of the 51 teams cooked a whole hog. The hogs come spatchcocked and decapitated (state law requires the head be removed I was told). Here's a typical carcass with rub at the start of the cook.

Barbecue in South Carolina is a noun. Ribs are ribs, not barbecue, and chicken, steak, or, heaven forbid, brisket, are definitely not barbecue in SC. Barbecue is not something you do. It is something you eat.

A few of the 51 teams cooked with charcoal or logs, but most used gas. Some teams cooked the hog skin side down through the whole cook, and some teams cooked the hog meat down for a while, and then skin down the rest of the night. Much of it sorta fries in the fat from the skin. All the meat is pulled and mixed together. Then it is served to the judges with sauce, typically vinegar and pepper or mustard based. So it's really a sauce judging more than a meat judging. There was minimal smoke flavor. Here's what the meat looked like before being put in the "blind box" for judging. This guy, Pete Price of Confederate Cookers, a man has won several awards in the past, told me "Barbecue ain't barbecue without sauce. Otherwise it's just baked pork."

The rib meat is mixed in with all the rest. Here's what I saw several teams do with the ribs.

To their credit, there is no garnish in the judging boxes. No worrying about whether it is red tipped or any of that KCBS nonsense. The judges seemed earnest and knowledgeable about the local styles of barbecue, and SCBA is really devoted to promoting SC as a barbecue power to be reckoned with. I think they need to have two categories, "with sauce" and "without sauce" before the best judges will take them seriously.

The event is open to the public and for $10 they get to taste the barbecue from as many teams as they wish. Nice idea, but alas, beer is not allowed on the premises. One of the more popular features was the Robert E. Lee, the car driven by the Dukes of Hazard.

Since ribs are my specialty, I sought them out when I toured the state. The best ribs I had were at Belly's in Lexington, just west of Columbia. Tom Shealey serves perfectly cooked spares, tips attached, and served with only a dry rub. You can see how the place got its name by clicking here.

In other restaurants, many ribs were served cut, not in slabs, and sauced. The sauces, which I loved, are thin, so they soak right in down to the bone so you can hardly taste the pork.

The coolest place I visited was Jackie Hite's. He has two screened-in sheds attached to his restaurant. One for cooking hogs on three large cinderblock sand bottom pits that are fired with coals made from logs that he burns down outside until they are embers. Alas, I arrived too late on Friday after he had removed the hogs.

The other shed is for "hash" a local specialty that I fell in love with. The recipe varies from place to place, but it typically is a stew of ground barbecue pork, pork liver, onion, and mustard sauce, served over rice. Think of it as runny sausage. Hite has two huge cast iron cauldrons in which he cooks his hash, about 70 gallons.

He sells the most unusual ribs I have ever seen. Loin backs with the skin still on! He serves the most amazing cracklins I have ever tasted!

As with most SC barbecue restaurants, he serves his pork on a buffet. The buffets typically contain barbecue, hash, cracklins, fried okra, hush puppies, macaroni and cheese, very sweet sweet potatoes, creamy cole slaw, canned corn, corn bread, fried chicken, fried chicken gizzards, banana pudding, and of course, sweet tea. All for $8.95-9.95.

Hites, like many of the best barbecue joints in SC, is open only three days a week: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. "People just don't eat out much Sunday through Wednesday, I guess" one restaurateur told me. Apparently the tradition stems from the old days when farmers would work the fields Monday through Wednesday, open a small barbecue shack on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and go to church and spend the day with family on Sunday. Probably cooking barbecue...

I visited at least 20 other joints, and the best food was at Belly's Southern Pride owned by Tom Shealy, 671 Smith Pond Rd., Lexington SC 29072, 803-356-8284.

Some others I liked:

Henry's Smokehouse, 240 Wade Hampton Blvd., Greenville, SC 29609. Other locations: Woodruff Rd in Greenville and Simpsonville.

Sweatman's, Holly Hill near Orangeburg.

One of these days I'll put together more complete reviews.

Here are some links that will help you find the best:

SCBBQ. A pretty complete list of barbecue joints in South Carolina has grown to include other states.
Discover South Carolina. A website with a guide to all sorts of restaurants in SC has a nice list of barbecue joints.
Barbecue Is A Noun

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Please use the table of contents or the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help. Then please post your question on the appropriate page. Please tell us everything we need to know to answer your question such as the type of cooker and thermometer you are using. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we can't help you. Please read this article about thermometers.

MISSING COMMENTS. On March 16, 2014 the company that supplied the software for our comments section went out of business. The company that bought them was not up to our standards, so on April 17, 2014 we moved to a new service and and thousands of previous comments were lost. So we must begin again. Sigh. Click here to learn more about our comment system.

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About this website. is all about the science of barbecue, grilling, and outdoor cooking, with great BBQ recipes, tips on technique, and unbiased equipment reviews. Learn how to set up your grills and smokers properly, the thermodynamics of what happens when heat hits meat, as well as hundreds of excellent tested recipes including all the classics: Baby back ribs, spareribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, burgers, chicken, smoked turkey, lamb, steaks, barbecue sauces, rubs, and side dishes, with the world's best buying guide to barbecue smokers, grills, and accessories, edited by Meathead.

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